Combined Bascule and Suspension Bridge
Tower Bridge was officially opened on this day in 1894. I have long been enchanted by it: as a fascinating piece of engineering it is the only combined bascule and suspension bridge I’ve seen; and as a monumental piece of Victorian Gothic architecture.
I first saw it as a child, though it was to be many years before I learned that the imposing stone towers are not solid at all. The granite and Portland stone clads a steel frame interior. The pair of girder like tubes that link the two towers contain walkways. On a nice day the view from this high-level walk is fabulous. There is also a small museum where you can still see some the original machinery used to move the bascules, the bits that lift up. Last time I was there the museum had a working demonstration of a hydraulic ram where a child (or in my case an adult) could sit and be lifted up by someone working hard on a pump.
If you collect those flattened Pennies, its has one of those machine too. I often wonder whether the deliberate destruction of a coin of the realm is legal in every country. I suspect not!
Tower bridge sits in one of my favourite parts of town. Linking the Tower of London, on the north side with the perhaps less well known Shad Thames on the south side.
Originally this was a riverside warehouse complex with a long brick-built block parallel to the river known as Butler’s Wharf. Along with a parallel similar block connected by a series of metal gangways at the first and second floor levels, that echo the high-level walkways of the bridge. These are often at slightly curious angles, and always remind me of Hogwarts – though I have yet to see them move!
Shad Thames is the name given to the street that runs between the old warehouses, which are now upmarket flats, (£2 million and up for some). There are various eateries and small shops on the ground floor. Walking along it is utterly charming, it is, as afar as I can recall pedestrianised. The above photo captures it well. It does feel a million miles away from the bustle and noise of Tower Bridge and the adjacent Tower Hill.
The small, and charming Design Museum is close to the far end of Shad Thames. But that is a story for another day.